If you are among the thousands of bird watchers across America who are concerned about the impact of West Nile Virus on birds, then there is something you can do.
Sign on for the sixth annual Great Backyard Bird Count, to be conducted Feb. 14-17 across the United States and Canada.
The Backyard Count, much like the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, is an attempt to index the winter distribution of all species of birds. This year special attention will be paid to the counts for species especially affected by West Nile.
Last year thousands of birds - including everything from crows and blue jays to red-tailed hawks and great horned owls- are thought to have succumbed to the mosquito-borne disease, which also can severely affect some humans.
The Backyard Count is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the renowned Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. In 2002, some 47,000 participants counted millions of birds across North America. Their tallies helped reveal valuable information about evening grosbeaks, snowy owls, collared doves and more.
“We need every birder to join us,” said Frank Gill, Audubon's senior vice president of science. “The Great Backyard Bird Count has become an important means of gathering data to help birds, but it can't happen unless people take part. Whether you're a novice or an expert, we need you to take part and help us help birds.”
Cornell and Audubon are asking watchers to pay special attention to the more than 200 species on the Audubon 2002 WatchList, which was issued last fall. The list names species in danger or decline, and can be seen at the following Web site: www.birdsource.org/gbbc.
Last year the 10 most common species seen were mourning dove, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, house finch, American crow, blue jay, downy woodpecker, American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee and tufted titmouse.
To participate in the count, watch and tally the birds in your back yard, local park or natural area on one or up to all four count days. Keep separate records for different locations and fill out a checklist for each. So if you count four days at one site, you will submit four final checklists; if you count four days at two sites, you will submit eight.
Watch the birds for at least 15 minutes at each site on each day you participate, though a half-hour or more of observation is preferred. For each species of bird seen, keep track only of the highest number of individuals of that species you can see at any one time.
For example, in a half hour in the back yard you may see four groups of house finches numbering three, four, five and two. The highest number at one time is five, so five will be the number of house finches you report to the GBBC. Take care not to count the same bird or birds twice.
At the end of your counting, submit a final checklist for each site where you have observed to the GBBC Web site listed above.
If you do not have access to the Internet, try your local library, or contact a local Wild Birds Unlimited store. The WBU chain is a count sponsor. The Toledo area store is at 5248 Monroe St., and can be called at 419-841-7219.
For other details or questions, call the Cornell Lab at 1-800-843-2473.
Tomorrow - Great Northern Sportsmen's Club, stag-wild game dinner, 6 p.m., St. Clement's Community Center, 3030 Tremainsville Rd.; call Bud Spaulding, 419-475-6337,or Bud McAdams,419-841-6490.
Tomorrow and Monday - Public trapshoot, 5:30 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd., north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; call Jim Lamb, 419-836-2431.
Saturday - Northwest Ohio Gun Dog Circuit, at Blue Spruce Game Birds, Bryan, Ohio, call Steve Thompson,419-823-9559.
Saturday - 45th annual Detroit Boat Show, Cobo Center, downtown Detroit, includes extensive fishing-related section; call 1-800-224-3008.
Saturday - Master fly tying, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Cabela's Fly Shop, Cabela's, M-50 west of U.S. 23, Dundee, Mich.; tying pike, muskie, and bass flies by Brian Mezaros.
Saturday - Workshop for bald eagle volunteer watchers, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., conference room, Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, State Rt.2,Oak Harbor, must register in advance for security; call Mark Shieldcastle, 419-898-0960 extension 25.
Saturday - Safe boating course, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Ohio Division of Watercraft office, 1630 Sycamore Line, Sandusky; to register call the office, 419-621-1402.